Asia

The Longest Week of My Life

Friday, January 15th, 2016

Written by Lander Lee, Foster School undergraduate student, studying at the National University of Singapore.

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Landing in a foreign country. Moving into my new dorm room. Registering for my university. Registering for classes. Meeting new people. Making plans to travel to neighboring countries. Attending orientations. Exploring the country. And some sleep here and there.

Your first week abroad will definitely be one to remember. It’s jam packed with events, which can be overwhelming and satisfying at the same time. I have just finished my first week of school and have been in the country for almost 10 days now. Since I have only been in the country for a short amount of time, I figured I would share a lot of the experiences I’ve faced that I’ve had to adjust to here at the National University of Singapore (both the good and the bad).

 

Move In: Transportation in Singapore is extremely easy and pretty cheap relative to the US. At the time of this blog post (January 15, 2016), 1 U.S. Dollar is worth 1.4 Singaporean Dollars, which makes everything here even cheaper. Transportation is usually by the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit), the Singaporean train/subway system, or by taxi. A taxi ride from the airpot is about half an hour by taxi and will cost you less than $30 Singaporean dollars (rates fluctuate for time of day), but it will never be more than $40. You can also take the MRT from the airport to campus, but this will take about an hour. Before my flight, my dorm sent me directions on how to get my particular dorm from the airport by MRT and taxi, which helped. Although Singapore is a tiny country, taxi drivers may not how to get to your exact dorm, but they will know how to get to the NUS campus.

At NUS, you can either live in Residential Colleges in UTown, Prince George Park (PGP), or residence halls  as an exchange student. Dorms in Singapore are referred to as hostels. Most exchange students live in UTown, which consists of multiple dorms (Residence College 4, College of Alice and Peter Tan, Cinnamon College, and NUS Residences: North & South Tower). If you are familiar with the dorms at UW, UTown is the NUS version of West Campus and PGP & residence halls are the equivalent of a dorm in North campus. The UTown residences are newer than that of PGP & residence halls and are more likely to be equipped with air conditioning. If you want to meet mostly locals, residence halls are the place to be. A student living in the residence halls told me there were only 15 people living in the entire residence hall. In comparison, my hostel in Cinnamon College houses probably houses closer to 100 exchange students.

In the hostels, you will either be placed in a Single Room (Air conditioning or no air-conditioning), a 6 person suite with shared living space (Air conditioning

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or no air conditioning), or a 4 person suite with shared living space (Air conditioning or no air conditioning). I live in a 6 person suite with a shared living room and bathroom (2 showers & 2 toilets). In my suite, there are both exchange students and locals. All rooms will include ceiling plans, including those with air conditioning. If you want to use air conditioning, it costs about S$0.20/hr (20 Singaporean cents per hour). In January, the temperature is usually about 80-95 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the day. This is supposed to be the coldest time of the year, so I’ve been told. I’ve been told it only gets warmer, but hopefully not too much. If you have never been to an area in the tropics, be prepared for the heat and humidity!! After ten days, I’m definitely starting to get a lot more used to it compared to when I first arrived. The weather is aided by the campus infinite pool (located in UTown) for all students. NUS will send you lots of emails before arriving in knowing what you should bring for your dorm room. For example, bed sheets are not included, so you will either need to buy or bring single-size bed sheets. Singapore is a very developed country, so you can buy many of your necessities when you arrive.

There is an Ikea very close to campus, and there are local supermarkets where you can buy everything you’ll need for your dorm room. Although Singapore will have all your necessities, they most likely will not have the brands you’re used to seeing in the United States. For example, this is the laundry detergent I bought that I’ve never heard of before coming here. Therefore, if you have special necessities (toothpaste, deodorant, etc), you may want to consider bringing a couple with you to Singapore as they will most likely not have it here. Many Singaporeans hang their clothes to dry due to the weather and do not use the dryer machines for their clothes. Therefore, you will not find dryer sheets anywhere in Singapore (something I didn’t really think about before arriving).

Overall, I have immediately fallen in love with the country of Singapore. Singapore has so many different areas to explore for people that are interested both in the outdoors and the city life. The different mix of peoples in the country make up for an interesting culture (especially in terms of food). Although the country is small, it’s also a great hub for traveling across all of Southeast Asia, Oceania, and even Australia (if you want to make the 7 hour flight). You’re able to get around the country fairly easily by using only English. However, the people and culture is very similar to that of other Asian nations. More of why I have fallen in love with Singapore will come in future blogs. 

Finding the time to Explore Indonesia

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

Written by Katelin Kobuke, Foster undergraduate

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Watching the Sun Rise

Despite being super busy here in studying in Singapore I managed to find time to take a 10 day trip to Indonesia. A few of the other exchange students and I flew down to after finishing our midterm exams to reward ourselves and explore Bali. On this trip we ended up traveling all over Bali and the Gili Islands, staying in 7 different hostels. Our first stop was Uluwatu, which is famous for its cliffs and huge waves, which draw in the pro surfers. There is a big backpacker vibe here and lots of travelers so it was fun to meet people from all over the world. Next we visited Ubud, and the volcano in the north of the island. There we biked through the beautiful rice fields and villages, and got to see many of the Hindu temples in this area. We also had a tour of the spice plantations and drank Kopi Luwak coffee, the most expensive coffee in the world (made from the poop of a special cat that eats the coffee cherries).

After Ubud we went to Canggu where we tried out surfing ourselves with the assistance of some local guys. Although not anywhere close to what the pro surfers we saw in Uluwatu we managed to ride the waves on our first tries!  From there we took a fast boat ferry to Gili Trawangan, which is an Island east of Bali. Gili has no cars or motorbikes, so everyone rides horses or bicycles around. The water was so clear and beautiful! Now that I have my scuba certification I was excited to put it to use! We did two dives one at Gili T and one at Gili Meno the island next-door. We saw turtles, sharks, eels, Nemo, and a whole bunch of sea life, although the current was pretty strong the visibility of the water was unbeatable.

Our last stop was Seminyak, where we were able to relax on the beach, shop at the little boutiques local markets, and eat wonderful food! This trip was so amazing, full of yoga in the mornings, exploring during the days and improving our surfing and diving skills while we were at it. Too bad the vacation couldn’t last forever, now back to my studies in Singapore.

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Uluwatu Cliffs

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Scuba Diving in Gili

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Learning to surf in Bali

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The Beach at Gili Island

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Dinner parties on the beach in Seminyak

 

 

Exploring Singapore

Monday, September 21st, 2015

Written by Katelin Kobuke, Foster undergraduate

Hello!

I have been in Singapore for over a month now, and what an experience it has been! I am the only student from UW student studying here at NUS so it has given me the chance to branch out and meet new people from all over the world; there are over 1000 international exchange students studying at NUS this semester. The first few weeks we spent our time exploring Singapore, seeing all the major sites, finding great places to eat, going to the beach, finding hiking trails, and visiting some of the close by islands.  The food definitely takes some getting used to, lots of rice, meat, and fish, so good luck trying to find a nice fresh salad or a traditional breakfast around here!

 

Now that school is full swing we spend the weekdays studying so we can enjoy the weekends traveling! Classes are challenging and engaging, but it is definitely an adjustment getting used to the different teaching styles. I am taking an investments class, bank management, and organizational/leadership management class.  I have my midterms this week, so I really need to buckle down and study hard. So far I have had the chance to travel to Malaysia and Indonesia with some of the friends I have met here, and even got my PADI open water scuba license last weekend.

Singapore’s garden by the bay:

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Coral at Tioman Island:

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Snorkeling in Malaysia:

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Around Southeast Asia I Went!

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015

Written by Clarissa Suharli, Foster undergraduate

Although it is small, Singapore is a major hub to so many other cities in Southeast Asia. And to complete the exchange experience, I went to several other cities during school breaks, so many of which left me a lasting impression of amazement and gratitude.

From Singapore, I went to…

1. Siem Reap, Cambodia
I never thought that I would ever come to this city before, and coming there was one of the best travel decision I ever made. Although it’s famous for the Angkor Wat temple, everything here is amazing – the food, the people, the temples, even to the things sold at the souvenir shops. I felt so lucky to see the sunrise from Angkor Wat – if there’s a chance, please, please, please go there to witness the beauty. The picture won’t do the justice.
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2. Bangkok, Thailand
Every exchange student I know went to Bangkok at least once over their exchange period, and that says a lot. There are amazing architectures, tons of opportunities to shop, and scrumptious food, everything for cheap. There’s no reason not to go here.

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3.Krabi, Thailand
I went to Krabi hoping to go to the Phi Phi Islands from there, and boy, they have the most beautiful beaches with crystal clear water. And because it’s still in Thailand, they also have the yummiest food. Must go.

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4. Malacca, Malaysia
A small, charming city just 3 hours away from Singapore, Malacca is nice for a day trip – it offers a lot of food and shopping options, and most tourist attractions are within walking distance from one another. A nice break from the hustle and bustle of Singapore.

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5.Jakarta, Indonesia
This might be a bit subjective since it’s my hometown, but there’s always something to do at Jakarta. I flew home to go to a huge annual jazz festival in which I was lucky to see my favorite local musicians, along with Christina Perri (who coincidentally was on her Asia tour) play live. Before going back to Singapore, I also made sure to eat my favorite Indonesian foods: bakmie ayam noodles and podeng ice. Yum!

People say that travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer, and I wholeheartedly agree. I closed this chapter of my life being a lot richer in experiences, and a gazillion times more grateful to be able to experience everything in this short, but sweet and rewarding semester.

 

Daily Life, Singapore Style.

Friday, June 12th, 2015

Written by Clarissa Suharli, Foster undergraduate

Being one of the most liveable countries in the world, I’ve always wanted to stay in Singapore for longer than just a few days. However, being just a tiny island country in Southeast Asia, one reservation I had prior to choosing this place is that I’ll run out of fun things to do. I mean, it takes less than two hours to get from one end of Singapore to the other. But this place proved me wrong. Not only did it become a loving home, but were always interesting things to experience. Here are my top five.

In Singapore, I…

1. Went clubbing on top of Marina Bay Sands, the most iconic building in Singapore…
Look at the view. Enough said.

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2. Went to the Universal Studios whenever I was bored…
Sentosa Island, a small island just south of Singapore, has a reputation of being Asia’s favorite playground. It hosts Universal Studios Singapore, a similar theme park to the one in California. Thankfully, it’s only half an hour away from campus so whenever I’m bored with studying, it’s nice to know that taking a break just to ride some attractions is doable.

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3. Drowned myself in food…
And the best way to do it, of course, is by appreciating all the amazing food Singapore is blessed with. From the national dishes, such as chicken rice and chili crab, to Peranakan cuisine like laksa, to yummy Indian butter chicken to yummy waffle brunch to burrito bowls similar to Chipotle, Singapore is a food heaven.

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4. Never felt unappreciative of amazing architectures…
Design-wise, this art school is my favorite building in the world. And it’s located in Singapore.

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5. Picked up some Singlish, the unofficial language of Singapore.
With vocabularies consisting of words originating from 6 other languages, learning Singlish and picking up some foreign words in the process is a fun everyday challenge.

“I’ll never regret my choice of going to Singapore – it’s truly an awesome place to spend your semester in.”

College Life, Singapore Style.

Monday, May 11th, 2015

Written by Clarissa Suharli, Foster undergraduate

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Have you ever achieved/seen/tried/tasted/been exposed to so many new things in such a short amount of time? Well, I did during the four wonderful months I was in Singapore for exchange. Granted, this is not my first time living abroad far away from home, but life hasn’t been this rewarding for me before. It’s difficult to sum up everything into just a few blog posts, so I figured that I’ll make short lists about my experiences. In this post, I’ll talk a bit about my school, the National University of Singapore.

Here goes. At NUS, I…

  1. Met the smartest, most dedicated, and super passionate bunch of people: my classmates and professors.
    Being ranked no 1 in Asia, classes are filled with the smartest and brightest. Makes it really hard to be on top of the curve, but the quality of education is top notch.
  2. Lived one building away from an ice cream parlor, a really nice infinity pool, and a 24/7 computer lab and study space.
    Let me introduce you to University Town in the National University of Singapore, also known as the best place to live for college students.Singapore_2
  3. Had access to tons of activities that cater to all sorts of interests…Like going on a midnight biking trip to grab supper, dragon boating in the Singapore River, seeing a poetry reading by Jane Hirshfield (who came all the way from the States, no less), staying up late to discuss beauty from the philosophical point of view, exercising to bollywood zumba, to learning how to sail, these are just a few activities among all that’s offered to students.Singapore_3
  4. Tried archery for the first time
    Singaporeans are keen on exercising and keeping themselves fit, and thankfully there are a lot of options on campus. Now I can proudly say that I can assemble a bow and shoot arrows, like Katniss Everdeen :)
  5. Took an elective class on social media
    NUS is the best in offering fun elective classes – another friend of mine took a class about Popular Culture in Southeast Asia, while another took one about Food in Japan. I mean, I love studying in general, but this is just FUN.

In short, NUS is a wonderful choice to consider for your exchange semester. Not only the school, but Singapore as a city is also a great place to live in. But more on that later!

Seoul to Busan

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Written by Melissa Jung, Foster undergraduate

Next to Seoul, Busan is the second most well known city in Korea. I made the trip south with some friends to visit for a weekend. I was amazed at how beautiful it was there! Since we only had two days, we did all that we could in the short amount of time we had. We visited a small village in Busan that was famous for its colorful wall art throughout the alleys…and the view was beautiful!

Busan was just a gorgeous city. The walkways were lined with bright, golden trees where my friends and I probably ended up taking a hundred pictures. In Seoul, you can’t see the ocean, so it was breath taking when I saw the sea. We just sat there for an hour admiring the view and reflecting on how amazing our trip to Busan had been.

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China Checklist

Monday, February 9th, 2015

Written by Eric Gong, Foster undergraduate


Here’s Five Things That I was able to do:

1. Got a Bike (Early September)

In my last post, I briefly mentioned my bicycle. However, I wasn’t able to pay the full respects that its due. This is my way of amending that. 

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I’m borrowing the bicycle from distant relatives here in Beijing, which is what it looks like  too. The relatives live near the Beijing Zoo, so I was able to ride from around there back to school. Despite all the people and cars, I enjoyed the opportunity to ride a bike again. Walking around everywhere was getting a little old. And it was fun to see some of the city.

Most people’s first reaction to my bike is usually laughter—though I don’t find it all that funny. I think people must be under the impression that I actually bought the thing, which in that case would be that I’ve been swindled out of my mind. Really, if this wasn’t a family artifact, then I’d have to get paid to ride it. But hey, it looks pretty nice. Picture me riding.

2. Olympic Stadium (Early October)

I vividly remember watching the 2008 Olympics and really like the Olympics in general, so dropping by here really was a no-brainer. We didn’t actually go in the stadium*, so I wasn’t able to do my Usain Bolt impression. Maybe that’s for the better

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*Decided against it cause of money and time

3. They Could Be Royals (Early October)

I was also able to visit the Summer Palace, which ended up being one of my favorite places. Unfortunately, I forgot to put in the memory into my camera when I left. That meant that my phone was left up to the duty of pictures. To my surprise, it was more than up to the task. The views inside really were spectacular.

 

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4. Biked Across the City (Mid October)

I got the crazy thought that cycling across Beijing with the school’s cycling club would be a good idea. So we left at 9:00 pm and I got back to my room at around 2:00am. The last 10 kilometers was the worst part because cause there were no sights to left to see and I wanted to sleep. Despite this and the pollution,I thought the experience was a good one. It was fun being able to see this city at night, including Tienanmen Square andthe lights at 后海. And hey, I got some exercise in as well. The 50 kilometer trip was well worth it.

5. APEC Holiday

Thanks to the APEC Conference that was being held, all the students in Beijing got an extra five days off at the beginning of November. I spent that time at 张家界 with some classmates. 张家界 is said to be the inspiration behind the film Avatar. I’ve never watched the film, so I’ll let you be the judge of that.

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Second Chances

Friday, February 6th, 2015

Written by Eric Gong, Foster undergraduate

Yup, I gave it another try. After I tried 臭豆腐 (stinky tofu) in Taiwan a few years ago, I swore that I would never try it again. It tasted just like how it smelled and I honestly despised the taste. It looks as if my resolve has weakened over time. My food philosophy has evolved over time. Local foods and fermented foods are both of greater interest to me.  臭豆腐 fit into both of these categories, so when I was in 长沙, I decided to go for this local specialty*.

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*Hard to see in the picture, but this type of 臭豆腐 came in a soup. It is made differently than the Taiwanese kind. It smells about the same though.

One of my friends gave his assessment and I think it sums it up pretty well: “It just tastes like tofu”. I’d agree that it really just tasted like tofu, green onions, and chili peppers. It’s the after-taste that’s special; lingers in the mouth for quite a while, which was certainly not a plus for me. But 臭豆腐 has now moved into a zone closing to acceptance. I’m still not fond of it, but this polarizing Chinese snack could probably warrant a few more tries from me.

Climate Challenges in China

Friday, February 6th, 2015

Written by Eric Gong, Foster undergraduate

Beijing’s air can get really dirty, and when it does, it stays dirty for days at a time. The pollution puts a hazy tone on everything. It really is no fun when it happens. It’s too hazardous to go running. People have to wear masks*. The smog clouds the sun. Everything is gray.

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*Without one, some people start coughing. It’s never been that severe for me. But for me, my throat feels really dry and I start to feel my lungs

For reference, Seattle’s Air Quality Index is a 40 on a bad day. Beijing on a good day is around 100. However, there are the very best days, which are around 40. But then the winds blow the smog away. And everything changes.  Beijing is better when the skies blue. But the gray ones make us appreciate the wind.

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